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A nation’s spirit uprooted by conservative focus on “anchor babies”

The 14th amendment, established in 1868 as a major gain from the Civil War, united a nation that was once half-slave and half-free. Today, some Republicans wish to revisit the debate of 1868 and revoke its notion of birthright citizenship in order to help prevent undocumented immigration. Instead of focusing on reforming the immigration system, these Republicans focus on punishing immigrants and Americans alike by altering an amendment that continues to carry so much of our national spirit.

The 14th amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”. It also forbids states from denying anyone “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or “denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has led the proposal to debate the amendment, arguing that it induces undocumented immigration and the desire to have a baby to claim citizenship, calling such a baby by the derogatory term, “anchor baby.” Arizona’s Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of SB 1070, agrees. He said,

“When [the 14th Amendment] was ratified in 1868, the amendment had to do with African-Americans; it had nothing to do with aliens. It’s got to be fixed.”

Anti-immigration activists often claim that their real concern is to prevent law-breaking. But the Washington Post puts it best,

Revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ – arriving, not across a border, but crying in a [U.S.] hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. This cannot be called the rule of law. It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.

Even Lou Dobbs, known for an anti-immigration stance in many respects, spoke out against changing the 14th amendment.

I believe that the 14th amendment – particularly in its due process and equal protection clause – is so important; it lays the entire foundation for the Bill of Rights being applied.

Defenders of the amendment say altering it would weaken a fundamental American value while doing little to deter immigration. In fact, immigration activists say that birthright citizenship is not even a significant driver of immigration, because a child has to reach age 21 to petition for permanent legal residency for his or her parents.

In even more charged reasoning, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) warned that birthright citizenship was a national security issue – involving a diabolical 30-year-long plot by some very patient terrorists. He said,

I talked to a retired FBI agent who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system. And it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby… And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.

If birthright citizenship was revoked on the premise of fearing terrorists, our nation would embark on an even uglier journey of racial profiling. Moreover, on a practical level, revoking the 14th Amendment would affect those Americans who “look immigrant”, leading to an ugly ladder of bureaucracy to  prove citizenship.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) has gone even further and said we should deport existing natural-born citizen children if their parents are illegal immigrants. This retroactive stripping of citizenship is completely unconstitutional.

We simply cannot afford what we’re doing right now. We’re not being mean. We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen.

The solution – to criminalize millions of babies who are born in this country is unacceptable. Denying these babies the 14th Amendment is the same as denying African-American slaves the 14th Amendment 150 years ago. Abolishing the birthright to citizenship is a movement not about the legality of immigrants, but about the stripping away of human rights.

The real anachronism standing here is these senators who want to take us back to the times before the Civil War. When the president of FAIR said, “We should not allow language from 1868 enslave our thinking…in the 21st Century,” Masao Suzuki, writer for Fight Back News Service, urges us to respond by saying, “We are not going to be enslaved ever again.”

Graham’s notion to debate the 14th amendment had a mixed reception even from groups that back tougher enforcement of the nation’s border restriction. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for one, supports stronger enforcement and, yet, refuses to endorse Graham’s suggestion. Instead, he suggested looking into reports of businesses that help immigrants arrange to have babies in the U.S. in order to win their children U.S. citizenship. Many Democrats also refuse to endorse Graham’s suggestion, but they resist stronger enforcement as a solution, stressing the urgency for comprehensive immigration reform. While President Obama’s push for immigration reform is considered dead, some Democrats are pushing for a scaled-back bill to move this fall.

Given the controversial nature of Graham’s proposal, successfully amending the Constitution would be considered unlikely. Many understand that the 14th Amendment made the Constitution what it is today: a document that guarantees the equal rights of all Americans and to which individuals and groups who feel they are being denied equality can appeal. As the 19th-century Republican editor George William Curtis wrote how it was part of a process that changed the U.S. government from one “for white men” to one “for mankind.” Since the Reconstruction era, the amendment had not stopped short of protecting African-Americans. Those who lived during the civil rights era had sought its protection, as well. Even today, the Supreme Court has used it to expand the rights of aggrieved Americans, as it did in Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 overturned a state law criminalizing homosexual acts.

Birthright citizenship has continued to protect all sorts of people outside the legacy of slavery, thereby rejecting any claim that it is anachronistic and requires amending.

“(Pre)Viewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration”

As we continue to fight for immigration reform, one thing that we can be sure about is a right-wing attack. A preview of this came about in the days building up to the successful immigration march in D.C. when fringe right-wing groups like Numbers USA, The John Tanton Network and the Tea Party Movement started pulling out all the stops to counter the building momentum for immigration reform. Predictably, their approach mirrored the strategies they employed a few years ago, during the last big push for reform that took place in 2007 under former President George Bush.

A report by liberal advocacy group People for the American Way called “(Pre)Viewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration” has pulled from years of expertise on the right to lay out a list of the key strategies that are traditionally employed to defeat immigration reform, followed by tools to retaliate against these irrational and unsound attacks.

One of the most common strategies employed by the right is an appeal to racial fear. This is carried out in a number of ways, including the positing of the “Brown” threat to a “White America,” and the outrageous portrayal of immigrants and their supporters as invaders and enemies of the United States. Inciting prejudice against Latinos, Rep. Tom Tancredo commented in November 2006-

Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country…. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country.

Not to be left behind, former Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan continued in the vein of this fear-mongering around the “immigrant invasion”. He wrote in 2007-

What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America’s white majority is no longer even reproducing itself. Since Roe v. Wade, America has aborted 45 million of her children. And Asia, Africa and Latin America have sent 45 million of their children to inherit the estate that aborted American children never saw.

It goes without saying that claims that America has been built by and for White people are historically incorrect and intensely racist. More importantly, this country continues to be shaped by immigrants and draws immense political and economic strength from its diversity.

Continuing in the vein of racial divisiveness is the idea that immigration rights advocates are themselves racist, a notion that has emerged in the post Obama election days. While television personality Glenn Beck has referred to President Obama as someone who was opposed to white people, he has generated the idea from numerous accusations of racism thrown at pro-immigration advocates during the 2007 push for reform. At that time, the radio host Michael Savage attacked the National Council of La Raza by calling it “the Ku Klux Klan of the Hispanic people.” He went on to say that it was “the most stone racist group I’ve ever seen in this country”.

Portraying undocumented immigrants as responsible for terrorism and crime waves, as well as positing them as “unclean” carriers of disease and bio-terrorism is one of the tactics that the far right has employed on both local and national levels during past debates around immigration. Such as when  Lou Dobbs claimed immigrants were causing an epidemic of leprosy in the country which was simply untrue. Or when during the debates over immigration reform, Rep. Steve King, of the House Republicans’ “Immigration Reform Caucus” extrapolated fictional statistics claiming that 12 American citizens “die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day”. If that’s so, then why is it that the President’s Council of Economic Advisers reports that immigrants have lower crime rates than U.S. citizens and that immigrant men ages 18 to 40 are less likely than other U.S. residents to be incarcerated.

While we hope that most of you would be taken by the impulse to laugh off these strategies as racist, rabble-rousing garbage, we must take note that such nativist fear-mongering has the power to garner significant support from many, especially within the current climate of an unstable economy. Work such as People For the American Way’s “Right Wing Watch: In Focus” series gives us the best tool to fighting these attacks – truly understanding the reasoning behind them, and countering them on their own territory.

Let’s fight racism on our route to humane immigration reform!

Photo courtesy of usatoday.com.

Lou Dobbs to resign from CNN after pressure by advocacy groups

After facing intense pressure for his anti-immigration rhetoric, Lou Dobbs announced his resignation last night to his viewers. He will be replaced by John King.

Wednesday’s program will be his last on CNN, even though his contract was not set to expire until the end of 2011.While his reasons were “some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day”, the truth is that intense pressure from campaigns like Drop Dobbs and Basta Dobbs have had a tremendous impact, including the airing of a Drop the Hate ad on MSNBC.

The New York Times reports,

Mr. Dobbs has evolved over the years from a straight-laced business anchor to an outspoken commentator who rails against illegal immigration and taxpayer bailouts, among other subjects. Lately, though, he has saved most of his opinions for his afternoon radio show, which made its debut in March 2008. It is on the radio show that he talked repeatedly about the conspiracy-theory claims that President Obama is not a United States citizen. When he mentioned the citizenship issue on CNN over the summer, his bosses were forced to call it a “dead issue.”

Let’s celebrate the defeat of hate politics and the strength of action when we all rally together.

Lou Dobbs “Drop the Hate” ad airs on MSNBC!

CNN is feeling the heat because of its primetime anchor – Lou Dobbs. New York Times headlines. Front page of El Diario. Blogs abuzz with news.

Using its four-hour documentary “Latino in America” as a political rallying cry, groups including Drop Dobbs and Basta Dobbs have been laying the pressure on the channel to stop allowing Lou Dobbs from broadcasting hate politics. One example of many: Dobbs falsely reported an explosion of 7,000 cases of leprosy in the United States in the past three years, and blamed Latino immigrants for the perceived increase, a statistic which was been thoroughly debunked.

Now America’s Voice has raised enough money (16,000 dollars!) to produce and air an ad, “Drop the Hate”, that urges CNN to drop Dobbs and his one-sided “news” show. Unfortunately CNN has refused to air the ad.

As America’s Voice puts it, “By refusing to deal with Lou Dobbs and his nightly tirade against immigrants, Latinos, and people of color, CNN is quickly losing credibility as the “Most Trusted Name in News.” As people become aware of the network’s one-sided coverage of immigration, they will start changing the channel.”

And the channel did change to MSNBC where the “Drop the Hate” ad aired on the Rachel Maddow show across Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs announced yesterday that gunshots were fired at his New Jersey home 3 weeks ago, linking it to “threatening phone calls tied to the positions I have taken on illegal immigration”, but police believe the shots were just from hunters.

Tell CNN’s president Jonathan Klein that he needs to take notice of this growing movement.

The I in immigration stands for you

It always happens, after a sultry summer, fall invigorates us to start taking action.

Today, thousands of activists from labor, immigrant advocacy, civil rights groups, and faith-based communities are gathered in Washington D.C. to ask Congress to support immigration reform. It’s no coincidence that today is also the day that Rep. Luis Gutierrez will reveal principles of an immigration reform bill that will form the basis for a new approach to immigration. Calling on President Obama’s promise to address immigration reform, people are showing their support in large numbers. And they need your help.

On a related note, the Basta Dobbs campaign to dismantle Lou Dobbs anti-immigrant rhetoric from CNN, while having a major impact, is looking to intensify it’s efforts. While the National Council of La Raza is calling on you to stand up to the voices of hatred and advocate for reform. Interested?

And finally, our efforts are paying off. Immigration Detention reform is becoming a reality  – although lots more needs to be done to reform a notorious system of of incarceration that is responsible for many deaths and much abuse.

Watch Rep. Jared Polis stand up for detention reform and then support Amnesty’s effort or our effort to protect the human rights of immigrants and even citizens locked up in detention centers across the U.S.

Image courtesy of www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org

What does Lou Dobbs have to do with racial profiling?

The immigration community is revving up to counteract race and immigration based hate politics.

In my last post, I spoke about the pervasive problem of racial and religious profiling. The Rights Working Group has decided to do something about it with the launch of the Racial Profiling: Face the Truth campaign today! Profiling affects a broad range of communities, including Native American, African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities. Not only is it a humiliating and degrading practice, but it belies the very values that America stands for. With over 45 organizations including us supporting the campaign, as well as Congressman Conyers and Senator Feingold from both houses committed to enacting legislation to ban racial profiling, we have hope for success.

Meanwhile, America’s Voice have launched the Drop the Hate, Drop Dobbs campaign asking CNN to drop Dobbs’ show which paints an ugly picture of race-baiting, fear, and intolerance. They are fighting back with an amazing TV ad and need contributions to make it air! So go on and do your bit.

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In Washington, the Detention Watch Network is gearing up for its annual conference (yes, we will be attending and presenting a workshop on strategic communications) to mobilize folks around detention issues. A little birdie also told us it will be the space to launch their latest campaign (more on that later!). Can’t help but quote from this editorial in the New York Times.

While Ms. Napolitano and her team promise to make detention a “truly civil” system, they show no interest in reforming the corrupt mechanisms that feed it.

Seize the day!

FLIC-rally-4-200x300

Happy citizenship day!

Today is the day when thousands of immigrants become naturalized citizens in various cities nationwide.

As conservative talk radio hosts gather in D.C. to demand immigration enforcement including Lou Dobbs, they are counteracted by hundreds of community members and leaders from across the country who have  come together to ask for real social change.

Our friends at Reform Immigration for America want to hear from you about what it means to be a citizen. Submit your story as a comment on this blog post. You can also use the #citz hashtag on twitter or text CITIZEN to 69866 (text CIUDADANO for Spanish).

We cannot underrate the value of citizenship. It is both a privilege and a responsibility.

As President Obama said in his inauguration speech:

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world…this is the price and the promise of citizenship.”

Photo courtesy of www.swer.org

Drops Dobbs and Stop Hate Politics

It was inevitable. Drop Dobbs. A coalition of 14 partner organizations including some of our Restore Fairness partners, National Council of La Raza, Reform Immigration FOR America, Southern Poverty Law Center and Netroots Nation have come together to demand that CNN drop Lou Dobbs.

Many feel that Dobbs has a long history of promoting hate and ethnic and racial division. Among some of Dobbs more outrageous claims are the idea that “the invasion of illegal aliens” who carry leprosy is threatening Americans’ ‘”health.”

Jason Linkins from The Huffington Post reports:

Dobbs calls himself an “advocacy journalist,” but he doesn’t even live up to that ambiguous standard. Good journalism enhances the discussion of serious topics, but Dobbs helps to undermine and debase that discussion, routinely infusing it with misinformation and fear. And when it comes to issues like immigration, he has more in common with birther Orly Taitz than with Anderson Cooper.

The website comes on the heels of Dobbs scheduled radio show as a leading voice for the annual rally sponsored by the anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Drop Dobbs is asking people to sign onto a petition calling on advertisers to drop their sponsorship of Lou Dobbs and to stop sponsoring hate.